CARTERVILLE — Wayne Herman and Mike Pitchford of Mount Vernon had been there before.
They had a good bag of fish – 21.59 pounds – but after fishing the Midwest Bass Classic for the past 19 years, they weren’t going to start counting prize money. Although moments later they accepted a check for $2,000 for first place.
“We didn’t,” Herman said. “You can always expect 21-22 pounds down here. Really, the team that won it last year with almost 22 pounds won it with just three fish. It was a tough day and it just set up for us.”
And, frankly, when the numbers on the scale quit flickering, Herman was surprised at the number that appeared.
“For today, we didn’t think we had that much weight, but some of those fish had bigger shoulders than we thought,” he said. “We’re lucky to be where we are.”
Herman and Pitchford didn’t have a huge fish in their bag, 6.02 pounds was the big fish of the day, but they had four quality fish.
“We had three really quality fish, one other pretty quality fish and one we would have liked to get rid of, but as it turned out we didn’t have to,” Herman said.
The duo fished soft plastics, worms and beaver-style baits around shallow cover all day.
“We didn’t catch any fish deep,” Herman said. “We tried fishing deep, but it didn’t work out for us.
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“We actually caught nine keepers all together, so we culled four times. It got slow about the last third of the day. We only caught like one good keeper.”
The duo had done some pre-fishing. Some of the information they gleaned held up. Some didn’t. Herman said the beaver-style bait produced well in pre-fishing.
“Last weekend we came down and camped two nights and pre-fished,” Herman said. “The weekend before that we came down one day. That’s all we’ve been on the lake this year. A little bit of it did, but from week-to-week things change. We’ve been fishing this tournament down here for years, so we make adjustments.”
Herman and Pitchford fished the tournament every year since 2000. They’ve finished in the money before, but this was their first victory.
One year we thought we could have won it, but we lost a fish we needed,” Herman said. “We’ve been at it for a while. Finally it paid.”
A total of 49 teams fished the event. Ben and Jack Doan finished less than a pound behind Herman and Pitchford with 20.83 pounds. They earned $1,000 for their efforts. Ron Johnson and Tyson Shoot placed third with 18.62 pounds.
Jerry Watson claimed the big bass pot of $490.
The Midwest Bass Classic is a fundraiser for the Southern Illinois celebration of National Hunting and Fishing Days, whose take from the tournament was $1,300.
A total of 130 fish, weighing 383 pounds were brought to the scales.